PROVO In a time-honored Rivalry Week tradition, statues at Brigham Young University are wrapped in a nigh-impenetrable armor of plastic.
In this high-tech era, however, turns out that's not enough to protect them from Ute fans.
Radio host Tom Barberi has posted for auction an item on eBay a picture of a "rare bronze BYU cougar statue."
The auction description reads: "A gigantic bronze statue of (a) cougar. Has all shots, has been neutered, and will be neutered again this coming Saturday. Litter box included."
The cougar in question is the large bronze one near the southwest entrance of LaVell Edwards Stadium. The auction was posted Tuesday morning with a starting bid of $9.75. There was one bid as of Tuesday night.
"We're just trying to get people into the game," said Holly Braithwaite, Barberi's co-host and producer. "There's usually so much hype, but not as much this year. We're just trying to generate some excitement in an otherwise lackluster year."
Braithwaite, a University of Utah graduate, said Barberi, a longtime Ute fan, came up with the idea in a staff meeting. She jumped at the idea, though she admits that a photo of the statue was not their first choice for the auction.
"We couldn't auction off LaVell," she said, "so we had to go with the next best thing."
Duff Tittle, associate athletic director at BYU, said such acts are part of Rivalry Week.
"There's always going to be that fringe stuff," he said. "Without it, it would just be another game."
Tittle said BYU's campus is getting excited for the big game.
"All I can speak to is the perspective of BYU," he said, "and we're fired up to play the game."
In three of the past four years, one of the teams has come into the rivalry game needing a win to secure a conference championship.
BYU came into the 2001 game with an 11-0 record, and mounted a rally in the waning minutes to secure a 24-21 come-from-behind victory that wrapped up the Mountain West Conference Championship.
Utah won conference titles in 2003 and 2004 with 3-0 and 52-21 victories, respectively. Last year's game was accompanied by a fever pitch of hype as the Utes came in with an 11-0 record and needed a victory over BYU to secure a place in the lucrative Fiesta Bowl.
And while this year's game may lack some of that buildup being that there is no conference title or Bowl Championship Series bid on the line it still has important ramifications.The Utes, at 5-5, need a win to avoid a losing season and become eligible for a bowl game. BYU, at 6-4, is already bowl-eligible and assured its first winning season since 2001, but after three straight losses against Utah, the pressure is on.